Out There: Beware Of The Lake Zombies

Illustration: N.C. Winters

Every endurance athlete has an irrational fear. 

Endurance athletes come up with the most asinine, irrational fears. I’m certain it’s a side effect of the runner’s high—it makes folks outright delusional at times!

I’m not exempt from the clutches of strange fears. I’m terrified of lake zombies.

Yes, you read that right: lake zombies. As a child, I used to have nightmares about pale, ghastly creatures of the undead floating up from the bottom of lakes. For that reason, I avoided swimming in lakes for much of my childhood. I had all but forgotten that fear when I decided to train for triathlons, logging multiple hours in the pool.

Even though I knew the location of the race, it wasn’t until I actually arrived on race day that I looked over the expanse of Tempe Town Lake and shuddered with fear. Lake zombies.

If you had seen me on the shore that morning, you would have thought I was standing with my eyes closed to visualize a strong performance. You would have had no idea I was frozen with fear, trying to tell myself that lake zombies do not exist.

I’m not sure how I actually got into the water. I’m sure someone had to have pushed me, which would have been the only way to get me into the water. As the starting gun went off, my mind rushed with a string of chaotic thoughts:

“Why are these people so close to me? Where’s the black stripe on the bottom? Why can’t I see my hand in front of my face? What is that thing floating up from the bottom? That’s a lake zombie. Oh my gosh, that is a lake zombie!”

I popped up in the water, frenetically doggy-paddling and gasping for air. “Lake zombie!” I cried, “lake zombie!”

As the rescue kayaker paddled over to me, an object began to bob to the surface. I screamed and splashed water at it. As it drifted away, the kayaker reached into the water and pulled out a stick.

My lake zombie was a stick. Not even a stick—a twig. I had peed my wetsuit over something no bigger than a number-two pencil. I’ve been in a lot of bizarre situations in my racing career, but needing a rescue kayaker to save me from a twig definitely tops the list.

Chances are, you have an irrational fear, too—and we want to know what it is, no matter how silly you think it may be. Share you fears with us in the comments below.

This column first appeared in the April issue of Competitor magazine. 

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About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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